March 17, 2011

Lenten Study: 7 Deadly Sins—Greed #2: Neighborly Dog






     The following study is a journey through Lent, the forty-day pre-Easter season (which excludes Sundays).  Easter’s date, determined by the time of the first full moon after the Spring equinox, is very late this year.

     Traditionally, many Christians use Lent for self-examination and a renewal of their commitment to their faith.

     This year I  chose to do a devotional study on aspects of the Seven Deadly Sins, sins identified by very early Christians as key behaviors separating man from God and God’s will. The seven sins are not listed together in the Bible—each is, however, spoken about in various Scripture sites.




#1 Breaking the Mosaic Law

#2 Defying God or rebelling against God

#3 Acts of violence to others

#4 Failing to make proper sacrifices or worship

#5 Not living up to or reflecting God’s glory (not living as one created in God’s image) 



SCRIPTURE:  25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” 27 He answered: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’’” 28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” 29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ 36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (NIV) (Luke 10:25-37)

DEVOTION: Did the man go and do likewise?

     Although that question isn’t answered, we have the feeling that this expert in the law didn’t. He seemed to want eternal life without having to get down and dirty, without living as common folk did.

     The religious elite weren’t happy with Jesus’ message and behavior, especially for the poor. Some members of this elite would hire Judas with thirty pieces of silver.

     Having the right answers wasn’t enough for Jesus. Jesus wanted the law to be active. Knowing love of neighbor should lead to the actual love of neighbor.

     Our neighbor’s dog, Mika, doesn’t know the law, at least not the way we do. Mika is a Malamute. Her large size frightens strangers. For a while I was uncertain about walking in my neighbor’s yard when Mika was out. But Mika became my friend. As soon as I drive my car into my driveway, she runs over to my place to greet me, expecting a few kind words and a pat on the head. She understands being neighborly.

     Mika has never bandaged up a stranger along the road, but she is a neighbor. Mika has never taken a pie to a neighbor who has lost a spouse, but she is a neighbor. Mika has never said kind words to someone who had just lost his job, but she is a neighbor.

     On the other hand, Mika might have scared off a potential burglar in the neighborhood because the dog is a neighbor. Mika is different from the expert in the law (and us) because she doesn’t need to play with words and justify who she is. She doesn’t try to avoid living out the law of love.  She just goes on being a neighbor as she always has.

     Neighbors are generous with their love. Mika is my neighbor.

PRAYER: God, I know you don’t want my clever excuses. You want me to love my neighbor. Slap my wrist every time I make an excuse for not being a neighbor. With your guidance I can learn to be a neighbor. Amen.


To read the previous devotion, click on: Lenten Study: 7 Deadly Sins—Sloth #1: Failing to Learn and Politicizing Untruth

To read the following devotion, click on: Lenten Study: 7 Deadly Sins—Envy #2: Brotherly Envy



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